Bar Examination Requirements

Most College of Law graduates apply for admission to the bar in Illinois, although many later seek admission in other jurisdictions. Each state administers the bar examination twice each year: once in February and once in July. The supreme court of each state determines the material that will be tested on its bar exam. Generally, an applicant must pass two separate types of exams: (1) an academic qualification exam and (2) a professional responsibility exam (e.g., “The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination”).

The Illinois Bar Exam

The Illinois Bar Exam is a two-day academic qualification exam consisting of three components: an essay component (nine questions), a multiple-choice component (200 questions), and a performance component involving a LARC-like, closed-universe problem (in which the applicant is instructed to draft a memo, a brief or other kind of analytical document). Three of the essay questions are created by Illinois bar examiners. The remaining essay questions and other exam components are created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the organization that designs questions used in various bar exams across the country.

Illinois does not require students to have taken particular courses to sit for the Illinois Bar Exam.  Illinois Supreme Court Rule 704(d), however, lists 24 subjects that may be tested, which include all DePaul first-year subjects plus several core electives:

  • administrative law
  • agency and partnership
  • business organizations (including corporations and limited liability companies)
  • commercial paper
  • conflict of laws
  • contracts
  • criminal law and procedure
  • family law
  • equity jurisprudence
  • evidence
  • federal and state constitutional law
  • federal jurisdiction and procedure
  • federal taxation
  • Illinois procedure
  • personal property (including sales and bailments)
  • real property
  • secured transactions
  • suretyship
  • torts
  • trusts and future interests
  • wills and decedents’ estates

Illinois bar applications are available for electronic filing on the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar website, www.ilbaradmissions.org. Go to  > Information and Applications > Bar Exam Application.

The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar encourages law students to register with the bar examiners by March 1 of the first year of law school if they intend to take the Illinois Bar Exam. First-year registration is not mandatory, but is strongly recommended if the student has a history of character and fitness issues such as contact with the criminal justice system.  Students who register later will pay higher fees

Bar Exams in Other States

Each state administers its own bar exam. Generally, the exam consists of an essay component, a multiple-choice component, and a performance component involving a LARC-like, closed-universe problem. The proportion of questions designed by each state’s own bar examiners versus questions designed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners can vary widely from state to state, as well as whether a state administers a particular component at all. Thus, a student should check the state’s bar admissions website to learn specifically what subjects are tested and which components are used. The student should also determine if the state has a policy of allowing first-year students to register in advance.

For information about applying to take the bar exam in another state or jurisdiction, go to the National Conference of Bar Examiners website, www.ncbex.org. The home page, right-hand column, contains a directory of contact information for the bar admissions office of each jurisdiction.

Some states require students to have taken specific courses to sit for their bar exams.  Students interested in practicing in another state should visit that state’s board of admissions website to learn of any specific bar admission requirements.

A graduating senior who intends to take the bar in a state other than Illinois must notify the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at least two months prior to graduation.  The student must provide the Assistant Dean with a Dean’s Certificate form and a cover letter stating the student’s name, student ID number, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number and the deadline for submission of the form to the jurisdiction in which the student will be sitting for the bar. If the state to which the student applies requires an official transcript to verify the JD, the student must order the transcript from the University Office of Student Records, http://sr.depaul.edu. The College of Law cannot order official transcripts because release of the transcripts requires the student’s written consent.

Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is a separate exam from the academic qualification exam described in the preceding section. The MPRE is a two-hour exam that tests knowledge of ethical standards of the legal profession. It is administered three times a year in March, August and November. To be licensed in most states, an applicant must take and pass both the MPRE and the state’s bar examination.

Registration and qualification for the MPRE: To register for the MPRE, go to the National Conference of Bar Examiners website: ncbex.org > Multistate Tests > MPRE. For a DePaul College of Law student’s MPRE score to be accepted in Illinois, the student must complete at  least 58 credit hours before sitting for the MPRE. Note: If a student takes the MPRE before earning 58 credits (2/3 of the 86 credits required to graduate), he or she will have to take the exam again.

An applicant need not take the MPRE before taking the bar exam, but most DePaul students take the MPRE in their final year of law school before they graduate. Note that the Illinois Board of Admissions and other states must receive satisfactory proof that an applicant has achieved a passing MPRE score before he or she can be recommended for admission to the bar.

Warning: Unfortunately, every year, some College of Law GRADUATES fail the bar. Do not let this happen to you.  A principal reason FOR FAILURE IS UNDERESTIMATING THE DIFFICULTY OF THE EXAM AND NOT TREATING BAR STUDY AS A FULL-TIME JOB.

College of Law Bar Examination Resources

Students are strongly encouraged to attend the College of Law’s Bar Skills Workshops conducted in the last semester of their senior year.  The workshops will introduce the different components of the bar exam, exam-taking techniques, effective study and scheduling habits, and stress management techniques students need to know before beginning the intensive, ten-week review period preceding the exam.   Seniors are strongly encouraged to take a commercial bar review course immediately following graduation.

For more information about the bar exam, go to the College of Law’s Law Student Resource Guide at http://law.depaul.edu/students/pdf/quick_resource_guide_pdf, and the College of Law’s brochure, “The Bar Exam: Begin Preparing Now,” at http://law.depaul.edu/pdf/bar_prep.pdf.

Character and Fitness Disclosures

The Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar requires that the Dean of the law school certify that each student sitting for the bar has earned the JD degree. As part of that certification, the Dean must answer the following questions:

  1. Do your records or other information show anything adverse concerning the applicant’s honesty, integrity, or general conduct?
  2. Was the applicant ever involved in a disciplinary inquiry or proceeding while in attendance? If so, explain.
  3. Are you aware of any matter or matters reflecting adversely upon the applicant’s reputation and character?
  4. Please state any facts, not covered by the foregoing questions, unfavorable to the applicant, which you think the committee should know in connection with its duty to determine whether the applicant is worthy of the highest trust and confidence.

Most other states require similar certificates to be completed by the Dean before students may take the bar exam. 

Students are advised that they have a duty to supplement their law school files if any adverse criminal, civil, administrative or financial events occurred before or during law school. If any discrepancy exists between information disclosed on the original law school application and the bar application, the student may be asked to meet with bar admission staff or the Board of Law Admissions.  Adverse information not disclosed may result in the denial of a license to practice law. Students who do not fully disclose adverse information when they apply to DePaul University College of Law must do so at the earliest opportunity.  If not, they may be cited for a violation of the College of Law Honor Code. Penalties, including letters of reprimand, suspension or expulsion, may be imposed for failure to make full or complete disclosure.